Bad medicine: Shelter report shadowed by questions

Photo by Erick Pleitez, Wikimedia commons

ST. GEORGE – Last week’s report about the investigation into allegations of misconduct at the St. George animal shelter is raising questions among some of the individuals interviewed for the investigation, and among local animal welfare organizations. The report has also caught the attention of one former Utah state attorney general. New findings about the sedation drug that was used at the shelter have also raised additional questions about the investigation.

Questions about euthanasia

In an interview, Deputy Chief Richard Farnsworth, who led the investigation into the allegations, revealed that euthanasia was performed at the shelter without the use of sedative drugs the vast majority of the time, and that the “preferred method” of euthanisia was via intracardiac injection, commonly referred to as a “heart stick.” The procedure entails an injection of pentobarbital sodium directly to the heart of an animal, a procedure that, when performed correctly, is not thought to be painful because the heart does not have pain-sensing nerves.

However, according to training methods taught by the Utah Animal Control Officers Association, the use of the heart stick without sedation, while not against Utah state law, is an unacceptable method and should be considered “inhumane under any circumstances.” One report, included in the training, cites a “greater potential for operator error,” which “might not consistently produce humane death.” The heart stick method results in an inhumane death in instances where a practitioner misses or punctures completely through the heart. Those who have witnessed such accidents have described instances of animals dying horrific and painful deaths.

Like nearly all veterinarians, Dr. Craig Brinkerhoff does not perform intracardiac injections. Brinkerhoff does not recommend the practice, even for animals under general anesthesia. Brinkerhoff said that the method would not be appropriate for somebody who, like former shelter manager David Vane, isn’t a trained veterinarian, “because you have to know exactly where the heart is,” he said. “A muscle or a subcutaneous sedative shot in the arm is more appropriate.”

The investigation report stated that Vane sometimes used a sedative drug to perform heart sticks. What was not revealed in the investigation was that acepromazine – the sedative drug used in the shelter for at least the past 10 years – does not induce unconsciousness, but rather, in large doses it induces a catatonic stupor in which the animal is docile but still alert and aware of its surroundings. When dosed with acepromazine, an animal would still be able to perceive pain.

“It’s a mild tranquilizer and antiemetic,” Brinkerhoff said, “it’s kind of like dramamine with people, it helps keep the vomiting down.” When asked if acepromazine was capable of rendering an animal unconscious, Brinkerhoff said that it should never be used for surgical procedures. Even in large doses, “it would never induce general anestheisa,” he said, “it never would go to that point.”

It isn’t clear in the report whether or not Farnsworth was aware, during his investigation, that acepromazine is not a general anesthetic. Paul Van Dam, former attorney general for the state of Utah, said that it was inappropriate for the city management to charge the Police Department with investigating the matter to begin with, but rather they should have looked to an outside entity with specific expertise in matters of animal welfare.

“If you are going to investigate animal control violations,” Van Dam said, “you can’t just have a police officer walk in there and do that. He just doesn’t have the expertise.

The investigation concludes that Vane’s euthanasia methods were not in line with current best-practices; however, Farnsworth and other city officials did not find that the methods Vane used violated any local, state, or federal laws. St. George city code stipulates that animals must be euthanized in a “painless and humane” manner. The Utah Animal Welfare act also stipulates that the city must follow local ordinances when euthanizing stray animals. When asked if he believed that a missed heart stick could be painful, Farnsworth said he agreed that it could be painful. The St. George Animal shelter euthanized 533 cats and 188 dogs in 2011 alone. “Vane administered almost all of the euthanasia for the last several years,” Farnsworth wrote in his report. When Farnsworth was asked if he had heard any reports of Vane missing a heart stick, he said “Vane said it can miss. I’m sure he probably has.”

Stock photo

Farnsworth said he does not approve of the heart stick method, that he finds the practice reprehensible. He recommends in his report that the practice should be permanently banned at the shelter.

“We are working with experts in the industry to update our practices and build these partnerships (with animal welfare groups) up,” Farnsworth said.

The St. George animal shelter has recently stopped the practice of euthanasia altogether, except for in dire circumstances where an animal is suffering and cannot be helped. The city is currently accepting bids from area veterinarians to provide this service in the future, when it is necessary.

Questions about accountability 

Brinkerhoff said that he isn’t sure that Vane should shoulder all of the blame for the questionable euthanasia practices at the shelter.

“I’m not trying to defend anything,” Brinkerhoff said, but said he recognizes the reason that Vane chose the heart stick method, and why the shelter was only stocked with acepromazine rather than a suitable general anesthetic like ketamine: “It was faster and it was cheaper,” he said. “It’s not necessarily only his fault, although he was doing it,” Brinkerhoff said, “I would dare say that they (the city management) had a lot of say in doing it this way because it was cheaper. So where does the buck stop?”

City Manager Gary Esplin said that the city moved quickly to change the practices at the shelter once they learned about them. He said that he wonders how anybody could have reasonably expected city government to know about the situation at the shelter when nobody ever came to tell him about it.

“Are you aware that the animal advocate groups have been before the mayor and city council on seven different occasions in the last five years,” Esplin said, “and never on one occasion has anybody ever made one comment to the mayor, or the city council, or the chief of police?”

Esplin said he doesn’t believe the city has failed the shelter. “We have an obligation to operate that facility according to applicable state and federal laws,” Esplin said, “and to the very best we can with the resources that we have, and we have not violated, as I am aware, any federal or state laws.”

Esplin pointed out that there have been 19 public city council forums in the last five years. He said that he found it odd that “not one time in those 19 times; not one time in those seven times when Best Friends has been here; when that homeless group, No More Homeless Pets in Utah; when P.A.W.S.; when the TNR people have been there on seven different occasions; and not one time did anyone bring up one single thing.”

Van Dam says that he’s unconvinced by the argument that residents should share in the blame for the state of the animal shelter.

That’s the wimpiest, limpest thing I’ve heard anybody say so far,” he said.

Van Dam said that he believes the responsibility for misconduct by city employees lies with city management and those who have been elected to oversee them.

The Police Department leadership strikes a markedly different tone than the city manager on the issue.

“Ultimately I am responsible,” Farnsworth said. “It’s our responsibility, it’s under our purview.”

He isn’t comfortable that some have interpreted the investigation report as saying that the allegations made against the shelter were exaggerated, Farnsworth said. Nearly every allegation that was originally reported was confirmed to have happened, he said, and said that he appreciates that people have come forward with their concerns.

“After looking into this we have found that there are areas in our shelter that needed to be improved. We have updated policies, practices, and procedures,” Farnsworth said. “We’re working with a lot of people, moving forward.”

Police Chief Marlon Stratton also said he agrees that the responsibility for the shelter belongs to the city.

“We didn’t stay as current on our practices as we should have,” Stratton said, “but I am committed that we will make the correct changes.”

The changes are not simply for show, he said. “When all of this goes away and it’s not on the forefront of everyone’s mind,” Stratton said, “we’re still going to do the right things for the right reasons.”

Questions about neglect

Many of the pet rescue organizations and volunteers, who originally brought the conditions at the shelter into the public eye, have said that they have tried for years to bring their allegations to the attention of the city, and some of them have said that they don’t understand why their allegations were ignored or glossed-over in the investigation.

Farnsworth wrote in the report that he found “a few incidents of animals requiring medical care that were taken to veterinarians,” and then concluded that no specific information was found to support the claims of neglect.

Mary Bemis, Carol Peckham, Lynn Burger, and other rescue volunteers have said that they have witnessed gravely sick and wounded animals go without treatment at the shelter, but they said the investigators have never interviewed them about these claims.

One of these stories was told in a public forum just a few weeks ago by Bemis, a 71-year-old pet-rescue volunteer. In front of the mayor, city council, police chief, and other public officials, Bemis related the story of a Labrador puppy with a broken leg, caged in the quarantine-area of the city shelter. When Bemis asked the shelter staff why the puppy hadn’t seen a vet, she said that she was told “we don’t do anything for them during the waiting period because the owner might come to retrieve it, and they might not want to pay for it.”

Bemis was interviewed by Farnsworth and Captain Gordon McCracken at the police department, but she said that the investigators never asked her about the testimony she had delivered one week earlier to the city council. Bemis said that much of her interview consisted of “filling me in on what they were doing to improve the shelter.” She said that Farnsworth showed her what improvements were being made at the shelter on an overhead projector. She said that her eyes welled with tears when she saw how quickly they were implementing many of the changes that she and others had spent years fighting for.

In retrospect, Bemis said, she doesn’t believe the investigators really wanted to hear about anything that would implicate wrongdoing by the city.

“He didn’t ask about the past, only about the things they already knew about, like hosing the kennels. He didn’t want anything more,” Bemis said. “He wasn’t digging; he was just trying to appease me by showing me what they were doing at the shelter.”

Lynn Burger, director of a local nonprofit rescue-shelter, said that she was never contacted during the investigation.

“I was never interviewed. Neither was Carol (Peckham),” Burger said. “Carol was listed (as a witness on the report), but she never talked to them.” 

In an interview, Farnsworth said that, in the course of his investigation, he had not come across “a single incident of an animal injured that did not receive veterinary care.” He said that “it would be horrific if that happened, but I have no reason to believe that it did.”

In May of 2011, Bemis said that she saw a 6-month-old puppy in the shelter that was “comatose and absolutely emaciated;” and, she said, “they told me they were surprised to find her still alive in the morning.” The puppy had been brought to the shelter after she had been chained outside by her owners and left for days without food, Bemis said. The owner was arrested and convicted of animal cruelty. Court records list Vane as the arresting officer; however, Bemis said she wondered why the puppy was left in the shelter overnight when St. George has a 24-hour veterinary hospital.

There are no veterinary visits listed in the animal shelter’s expense records for May, 2011. In fact, there are no veterinary visits recorded in the whole fiscal year 2011 expense report.

Questions about budgets

In an interview, Esplin said that some local journalists have been unfair in their reporting about the city animal shelter. He said that he thought that it might benefit reporters to look into how other animal shelters in the state function before they “cast aspersions.”

“Do you know what they do at the other shelters in the state of Utah,” Esplin asked. “Do you know what they do in Spanish Fork? Do you know what they do in Tooele? Why don’t they (reporters) investigate what they are doing?”

According to budget information posted on the Utah public finance website, Tooele spends more than double the amount of money that St. George spends towards nonpayroll expenses in its animal-control budget. Spanish Fork spends nearly three times as much as St. George. And St. George has more than double the population of either Spanish Fork or Tooele. In 2012, Tooele spent $2,416.46 in veterinary care for animals in its shelter. St. George paid only $643.00. In some years, St. George did not record any expenses for veterinary care at the shelter.

“It seems to me that they just put it in a backseat position and ignored it,” former Attorney General Van Dam said, speaking about the city’s attitude towards its own animal shelter.

Questions about the investigation

Kris Neal said that she has been telling the city about the state of the animal shelter all along: “I did, P.A.W.S. did, Robin did, we all did,” Neal said.

Neal said that she has kept records going back to 2002. On June 30 – a full month before the allegations about the shelter became public – Neal said that she told police Capt. Gordon McCracken about everything: “the euthanasia practices, the shelter conditions, the poor management, everything.”

She said that she told Farnsworth that she spoke to McCracken; however, McCracken’s name didn’t appear on the list of people who were questioned in the investigation.

“I complained to (retired SGPD Capt.) Lorin Johnson right down the path,” she said, “I bet 5 or 6 times, about the state of the shelter, about Vane’s attitude, about how they euthanize.”

She, herself, talked to Farnsworth, Neal said, and told him that Johnson knew about the state of the shelter as well.

Lorin Johnson’s name did not appear on the list either.

Farnsworth said that he didn’t feel that it was necessary to interview Johnson. “We worked our entire careers together. I never heard him bring this up,” he said.

Lynn Burger wonders why a third party wasn’t brought in to investigate the allegations: “You have the police department investigating the police department,” she said, “it should have been an external investigation.”

Burger said that she felt embarrassed by the way the investigation report dismissed their allegations as if they had made the whole thing up. “It made us seem like fanatics, as the mayor would call us.”

“In my experience of being the attorney general of the state,” Van Dam said, “and also the district attorney in Salt Lake County, … it’s never a good idea to charge an institution with investigating itself.

Van Dam pointed out how, according to the city code, the police chief answers directly to the mayor. He said:

We’re involved in politics right now with the mayor running for reelection. It’s kind of a recipe for not getting to the bottom of things very easily. You have an animal control division of a police department, where the accountability goes directly to the mayor, through the chief of police. The mayor has power over the police department through his ability to hire and fire the chief. There is an incredibly close connection here, and an incredible amount of power between those two offices. So much so that it is just uncomfortable to me that they would even consider investigating themselves.

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Email: mflynn@stgnews.com
Twitter: @mflynnSTGN

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

 

Photo by Erick Pleitez, Wikimedia commons

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43 Comments

  • Greta Hyland August 27, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Outrageous. Where does the buck stop? At the top. Nice work Michael…outstanding reporting.

  • eieio August 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Get over this issue already. It is obvious that St George News is trying to influence the election by stirring up controversy. There are more serious problems affecting our community and all you fools can print are how abused and mistreated animals are. They are animals. Not humans. How about spending half as much time trying to combat child abuse and neglect issues. Two bit biased reporting.

    • Craig August 27, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      @eieio…
      Take your meds…

    • Mary Bemis August 27, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      eieioooooo, go away, you are ignorant and don’t have a clue.

    • RNewby August 27, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      Eieio and others, First I would like to say that we have an amazing group of people in many organizations working hard to protect children from child abuse and neglect in this county. In fact many of us animal advocates also participate in child safety and welfare causes on a regular basis. We don’t just complain and fret about it we actually do something. I have seen many reports done on child abuse stories and convictions. Community public events handing out information and educating the public. Fundraisers, family and child resource centers, Children’s Justice Center and more hold events throughout the year.
      Until a month ago reports and interviews on animal abuse issues were a rarity here.

      You say “get over the issue already”. Sadly that is a popular attitude here in this county. Unless we as a people unite and ask for change, demand accountability for the cruel and inhumane activities and expect our elected and hired officials to be honest, attentive and have at least a basic understanding of the departments under their watch and guidance, we are sure to continue failing.

      The city and Police department has had years to make voluntary changes in the shelter. They have complaints from as far back as 2002 and they chose to do nothing. They dismissed complaints and chose to allow the neglectful and abusive conditions to continue.

      I do not have a lot of faith in the current elected officials or the activities in the police department. This “report” was a sham. Missing names of veterinarians,vague references, picking and choosing what complaints to investigate and which people to interview about what. It was sloppy and incomplete and certainly only managed to cast a cloud over advocates complaints and vindicate the activities at the shelter.
      The town council and the PD would have saved themselves a lot of embarrassment if they had used a third party investigation like they originally claimed they were going to do. I can assure you they were asked to do so in the very beginning.

      I really appreciate Michael Flynn and his willingness to look further into this case. I can only hope that real change comes with this.

    • Kris Neal August 28, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      laws have been broken. They were broken regarding our animals. They deserve to live and die under our care humanely. The law guarantees us this and when they are not, we are angry and since the animal shelter is a department of our Police Department, we expect the laws to be followed. Here are the laws. You compare them with the investigation or you already seem to know all.

      Utah Code 11-46-402 – Animal Shelter Euthanization Training, which states: “require each person who conducts or assists with a euthanization to attend the training program annually.”

      St. George City Ord. 81-11-2, 11-5-1981; amd. 2003 Code states: The division of animal control shall provide suitable premises and facilities to be used as an animal shelter where impounded animals can be adequately kept and supplied with food and humane care. It shall provide for the painless and humane destruction of animals where necessary, or it may furnish medical treatment for impounded animals.

      Utah State code: R156-37-305 which states: ”uses the controlled substances according to a written protocol in performing animal euthanasia” AND “maintain accurate records of controlled substances which come into their possession; and they maintain an effective audit trail”

    • Mikki August 28, 2013 at 7:45 pm

      To say that “They are just animals” is really offensive to me. I own two dogs, and they are like my kids. God didn’t put animals on this planet for people to mistreat and abuse. He put them here as companions. Each and every one of these creatures are individuals – spirits sent from God to teach us about compassion, unconditional love and generosity. That is a lesson that you will not be readily taught by a lot of people on this planet. For you to dismiss them as being “just animals” is a testament to that fact.

    • Robin Wilvers September 11, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      It doesn’t sound like you are Human either! We are the only ones who can protect these animals. We don’t need anybody in charge who thinks the way you do!!

  • kristen August 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    He doesn’t belong in an animal shelter, and he doesn’t deserve his job. If you have to euthanize an animal, it should be done humanely. He should be put in jail for animal cruelty.

  • Cathy Burrows August 27, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Why is the Mayor not speaking about this? Is he not the leader of St. George City government? Should he not set an example? What are his feelings and plans for the animal shelter? Is there are problem with his input because he is running for office?
    Is it because he is quite busy raising money to repair the beauty of the black hill in the city? Is the dirt on the hill being unsightly more important than taking care of the animals?
    Maybe the Mayor is just not fond of animals?

  • DoubleTap August 27, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    As I have stated before, the ultimate one responsible in this matter IS THE MAYOR. As the article states, it is the Mayor who is responsible for the Police Chief who oversees the animal shelter. Why is it that no one wants to take responsibility for this? The Police Chief says he is responsible…and who does he report to? I can see where Mayor McArthur does not want to let this matter affect his campaign for re-election, but it needs to be at the forefront of the Mayoral campaign. How can Farnsworth NOT interview key people for his report? Seems like the leadership of St.George intends to downplay this issue and gloss it over as “now it’s been taken care of”. To think that the Police Dept. would investigate itself and have an unbiased report issued is ludicrous., wishful thinking. I said that there plenty of unanswered questions regarding this matter and now it comes to light that I was correct. Mayor McArthur should withdraw from the campaign and leave his service to the City at somewhat of a positive note. It is sheer self agrandisement that will keep him in the race for another term. How selfish. I will end with a thought….smell like a “cover-up”.

  • janelle August 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    eieio- you are obviously a heartless soulless human. Do you not understand what heartstick euthanasia is? Not to mention WITHOUT PROPER SEDATIVES???? It is a horrific death SLOW PAINFUL HELL! how is that ok for ANY LIVING CREATURE?????? would you want to die that way? Your comment is so sickening. And WHY oh WHY do people bring up the same old lame comment of “oh worry about children more” SO sick of hearing that. I WOULD RATHER MY TAX DOLLARS GO TO HUMANE TREATMENT OF ANIMALS THAN TO PAY FOR YOUR 20 KIDS AND YOUR FOOD STAMPS!!!!

    HEARTSTICK AND GASSING MUST BE MADE ILLEGAL!!!!!!

    • eieio August 27, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      Ahhh you admit these are not illegal. Hence no grounds for any of this mindless ranting…

  • Harry August 27, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Me thinks Gary Esplin protests to much. Quit feeling sorry for yourself, take responsibility and deal with the problem. Unbelievable. I also agree that an investigation should be done by an outside party to get a fair story and conclusion.

    • Richard August 27, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      Between Esplin and McArthur their lack of leadership is pathetic! These two need to go ASAP. The Animal Shelter is only the beginning of what is wrong and corrupt about this city. The voters need to replace the good ole boy network and start getting things done that benefit the community and not just a select few. Ron Thompson is another who needs to go and is a complete waste of taxpayers dollars!!!

  • Peter McMillan August 27, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Our elected representatives are never in error and perform all responsibilities perfectly. They never know how bad things are in areas they are not interested in, but urge voters to be returned to office because they are the smartest and best able to solve all problems in St. George. The appointed city manager is touted as the only person on the planet to manage the city, with out fear of recall by voters because he is not responsible to the voters.

    Thus the painful death of the animals in the care of the “shelter” can have the same blind eye and deaf ear as those found in Auschwitz and other “shelters”.

    Sound harsh? Study the whole record of city government and management. How many other items have escaped detection or notice, placed aside with no champion to call attention, or just ignored.

    This is just one example of taxpayer dollars being misused. Informed voters casting an educated ballot is the ONLY way to install representatives who will do the work of the people by educating themselves as to their obligations and responsibilities of their elected offices.

    The shelter is just one sad example of lack of attention to duty. And not the only one in this small corner of Utah, I am sure.

    • DoubleTap August 27, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      The “appointed city manager” is not subject to recall….true. But, the “appointed city manager” CAN be fired by a new Mayor. To think that the shelter supervisor Dave Vane was suspended for 2 days without pay will take care of all this is laughable. Dave Vane should have been fired on the spot after Farnsworths report was released. Mayor McArthur should be “fired” as well by the citizens of St. George come election day.

    • MShabazz September 12, 2013 at 9:28 pm

      Peter,

      As much as I would love to study they’re record, I wouldn’t know where to look. There’s no transparency in our City Government.

  • Same old, same old August 27, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    This is just typical buck passing. The problem is undoubtedly two fold, (at least.) First off, you have budgetary constraints, and second you have a total lack of caring and empathy on the part of everyone who has anything to do with the supervision of running the animal shelter.
    If the politicians and bureaucrats were even close to caring as much as the volunteers are, this would never have been allowed to happen in the first place. The fact is, they just don’t give a dam.

  • Mary Bemis August 27, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Wow, I am so impressed with Michael Flynn and his reporting. He obviously did his homework, went the extra mile to verify everything, he didn’t just put together an article to meet a deadline, he put everything he could into exemplary journalism. We “fanatics”, as Mayor McArthur called us, are very upset with the report released by the Police Department on the front page of the Spectrum on Friday. They did everything they could to portray us as liars and exaggeraters, as the real facts become evident because of proper investigation, not taking the easy way out, not glossing over the facts, not spinning the truth, we will see who the liars and exaggeraters really are. Does this sound like the Fox guarding the Hen house. Mayor step up to the plate, take responsibility for the incompetent personnel you allowed to oversee a department under your jurisdiction, for all these many years, admit you just did not care about the way these animals were being treated, afterall, what is the mentality in this community, “they are just animals”, take responsiblity and clean up this mess from the top to the bottom, beginning with YOU.

  • Fanatic Dog Lover August 27, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I’ve never been so excited about an election in my life, I can’t wait!

    • Zeke August 28, 2013 at 9:17 am

      Yea, you and the other 14% who go out and vote! Yawn

  • lynn August 27, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks Michael. I appreciate your effort in following up on the investigation. The report didn’t sit well with most people. You gave us and the animals a voice.

  • Deke August 27, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    The city council/mayor CYA is incredible: we only found out about this when our earplugs accidentally fell out; before that, we knew nothing; whether we should have or could have known is not important; oversight and dept review is not in our budget; but we’ll be better from now on, promise. SHAME !!!

  • San August 27, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    This isn’t the official report but it’s more comprehensive and believable. Terrifying.

  • Smigman August 27, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    There is corruption in the City Government and the Mayor is at the heart of it. There is corruption at Dixie State University, and as with the city, powerful groups of LDS men are at the heart of it. It’s going to start to stink to high heaven around here when the truth about this old-boys cabal comes in to view.

  • Smigman August 27, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    And yes Michael did a fabulous job putting this piece together. I happened to observe him on the phone for more than an hour and he was digging hard but in a very respectful way. He was tough but fair………all the way professional. Thank goodness for real journalists in this town. KEEP DIGGING!!!!!!

  • Harry August 28, 2013 at 8:51 am

    I’ve read this article and re-read it. The more I read it, the more upset I get at Mr. Esplins excuses. I know for a fact that if he sees one thing out of place he hits the fan with wanting it fixed. Why Mr. Esplin didn’t you ever just check out the Animal Shelter on your own. You want to know about everything that is going on in the city, so why not that? Why not ask your own questions? Why not have concern for the safety and comfort of the animals. Does it always have to be a complaint before you act on something? So tired of your blaming others and excuses for you not doing your job. There are many departments in the City, the Animal Shelter is one. Take responsibility like your Chief and Deputy Chief have.

  • Harry August 28, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Oh and Mr. Esplin, one puppy going down the drain is one puppy to many.

  • Lisa August 28, 2013 at 10:03 am

    With regard to how other cities deal with animal control, one only need look at the budgets (public information) of St. George compared to Ivins City. I found only one meager line item referencing the animal shelter in the St. George budget while the Ivins budget has extensive and detailed budget information showing all animal shelter costs line by line. I think it’s very apparent given that how little importance St. George gives to the operation compared to a city like Ivins.

  • DoubleTap August 28, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Mr. Esplin, be a man and take one for (your cronie) Mayor McArthur. Just resign NOW! The voters will take care of (your cronie) Mayor McArthur come election day. Save the new Mayor some trouble and just RESIGN NOW!

  • Don August 28, 2013 at 11:43 am

    @ doubletap. I totally agree. Only in the good ol boy town of nirvana would one try to pull a fast one like this. I come from the balanced part of Utah where there are consequences for BS like this. The right thing to do is have an independant investigator. One without agenda for a change. Lets sit back and see if the rihht thing happens.

  • Isn't It obvious August 28, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Here is what I see. There is a problem at the shelter. Michael Flynn, who happens to be friends with Tara Dunn (Democrat), uses Van Dam (Democrat) to support his accusations.

    Is there a problem at the shelter? Maybe. Is 90% of the story cooked up for political reasons? Yes. Who benefits the most from the shelter stories? Tara Dunn. Who received $1000 from animal rights groups before any story about the shelter broke? Tara Dunn.

    The sad part is seeing Jon Pike pandering to this garbage. http://www.suindependent.com/article/stgeorgenews/4638/1/print/

    I thought that stgeorgeutah.com was going to be a good place for news, I guess not. Just a tool like most other news outlets.

    FYI, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/595096140/Paul-Van-Dam-bio.html?pg=all and

    http://democratsofsouthernutah.org/about-us/board-of-directors/

    • Ken August 28, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      From your name I can only guess your a hack of McArthur and Esplin! It is obvious that you are infatuated that they are Democrats. Have you ever reported who’s given any Republicans money? The STG News is doing fine for the most part but they are twinges of too much PC. You just can’t handle news or facts that don’t bode well for Republicans!

    • Robin Wilvers September 11, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      WHO BENEFITS THE MOST FROM THE SHELTER STORIES???? THE ANIMALS!!!!!!!!

      They get treated HUMANELY and get euthanized PAINLESSLY – AND ONLY WHEN NEEDED! ! Not for the FUN of it!!

  • Kris Neal August 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Thank You Michael, Great piece of investigative reporting. Of course Gary Esplin gave you great editorial advise and award winning sound bites that will be quoted for years to come. It’s amazing you could dig to the bottom of all the Shelter issues where the St. George PD could not.

  • Gunther August 28, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if our community would get this fired up about other issues that are out there. This shelter issue has caused many emotions to go through the roof over what happened or “may” have happened. In the end, it affects very few citizens and is only emotionally charged. It doesn’t affect anyone’s taxes, bank account, daily lives or anything else like that.

    If only people would get this fired up over the Lake Powell pipeline and other serious life changing situations that can affect our lives. This shelter was a good first “baby step” in investigative reporting in St George, but this particular issue is really not that serious. Somebody needs to really, really dig into some issues in this county that could seriously affect our lives and report that to the public someday.

    What’s really going on in this community besides the fluff that is given to us to chew on. Who are the movers and shakers in this community making financial decisions?

    Not to downplay the shelter again, but that’s the biggest news item we have here in STG? Really? And how about that 14% primary voter turnout? Would anybody care if dirt was presented anyways? 86% wouldn’t care, that for sure.

    • RNewby August 28, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      “Gunther” you are right that this city is slow to get fired up on a lot of issues.

      But can you see why when comments like yours dismissing the issues as “fluff” and having the audacity to claim that it only “may have happened” and “in the end it effects very few citizens and ” is only emotionally charged” only perpetuates and encourages that behavior of not getting involved?

      Why would citizens want to get involved in anything when they are treated so poorly and accused of exaggerating, being overly emotional and worrying about fluff issues?

      The comments by “Isn’t it obvious” and “Eieio” are just as bad. “Isn’t it obvious ” is so uninformed and determined to discredit everyone despite the facts that they lie about a campaign donation and insist that a decade of lodging complaints with the Police Department is is all politically motivated for certain candidates this year. That is real dedication to spend ten years scheming and conjuring up fairy tales to further someones political and ruin others.

      DC Farnsworth actually admits that “Nearly every allegation that was originally reported was confirmed to have happened,”. And these allegations brought up and “investigated” were incomplete, there are more that the “report” failed to cover for unknown reasons.

      Everyone seems to ignore the fact that the advocates tried to handle this behind the scenes, directly with the police department for YEARS. It could have been done quietly and quickly without detracting from other important issues concerning this town and county.

      Thankfully this report by Michael Flynn has shed some bright lights on some very fuzzy places in regard to what is going on.
      Will the public next accuse him of some ulterior motive? Or perhaps he is wasting his time reporting on this issue?

      Honestly I see people comment and they obviously have not been following the entire story nor have they totally read and understood the report or the articles. It is incredibly frustrating.

      If we the residents of Saint George cannot treat the weak and defenseless with dignity, compassion and abide the by laws set , how can we be capable of anything else even slightly more complex?

      By the way, I did vote in the primary.

  • lynn August 28, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Please get your facts right. NO money was given to Tara from any animal rights group. The groups are non-profits and CAN NOT give money to a political campaigns. The money was given by one individual who happens to be an animal advocate.

  • Kris Neal August 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Laws have been broken. Year of abuse, misconduct and mismanagement have taken place under the Cities nose. Our City is mad that nobody told them one of their departments with managers on top of managers is broken. Animal advocates put the City on notice and demand answers. Real investigative reporting is done for the first time in this Cities history. It’s a pivotal time in this Cities history and it’s citizens are no longer backing down through intimidation. They way the City does business may change for every.

    Are you interested now Gunther?

    Dallas Hyde did an opinion piece in The Independent’s August issue that is exceptional reading

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/10507158/August%20%2713%20Independent%20FOR%20WEB.pdf

    • Gunther August 28, 2013 at 11:04 pm

      Still not interested. There are way more important issues than this going on in this county to worry about right now. But stay motivated if this is an issue that is important to you.

      • Craig August 29, 2013 at 8:22 am

        @ Gunther…
        ” Still not interested.”…..and yet here you are commenting on what you claim does not interest you. Take your meds.

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